How long to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway on my motorcycle?

How long to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway on my motorcycle?

Budget at least 2 days for your motorcycle ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway –

Map - How long to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway?

Getting to the Blue Ridge Parkway is a days ride for half the population in the US.

Blue-Ridge-Parkway-humback-rocks-overlook

Blue Ridge Parkway – Humpback Rocks Overlook in Virginia

While you can ride the entire 469.1 mile long Blue Ridge Parkway on your motorcycle trip in a single day, I strongly advise against it. I’ve done it, and trust me, you will not enjoy the experience like you should. It takes strategic planning and uncomfortable endurance to go end-to-end in a day on a motorcycle ride.

blue-ridge-parkway-spiral-curve-sign

Blue Ridge Parkway – Some tricky curves await on this great motorcycle ride!

The simple math is misleading – at an average speed of 45 mph and 469 miles to cover, it seems like a little over 10 hours of saddle time on your motorcycle tour does the trick. For many riders on a fully laden bike, the challenge of the mountain roads leads to a speed closer to 35 mph. You’ll also come across car traffic which finds this reduced speed more comfortable and few opportunities to pass.

photo-no-gas-sign-on-blue-ridge-parkway

This sign is a legacy to when gas was available on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It should now read “No gas next 400 miles”. There is no gas on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Additionally, there is no gas on the entire ride. You’ll need to leave the parkway to fill up. Choose the wrong exit and that gas station may be 15 miles down a steep and twisty mountain road. Most of us like to eat, and there is only one Park Service Lodge left on the ride, so you’ll be diverting into nearby towns adding additional time.

So how do you do it best when time is tight?

I recommend starting at the north end in Waynesboro, Virginia. If you are going to try to cover as many miles as possible with few stops, do this in the Virginia section. The road is a bit more relaxed, the elevations not as high, and while the views are outstanding, they are not as spectacular as those in North Carolina. There are more wooded sections, and it gives you a chance to get used to the curves before you get into the more serious challenges to the south.

photo - Virginia blooms on the Blue Ridge Parkway

June on the Blue Ridge Parkway means flowers! A great time to enjoy the ride.

Rocky-knob-cabins

Blue Ridge Parkway – Rocky Knob Cabins – a nice stop but come prepared with your own food and drink.

Set your sights to get across the border and into North Carolina on that first day. You’ll still have time to stop at some of the nicer overlooks and if you’re making good time you can even visit some of the roadside attractions along the way. As you get near the border you’ll find lots of places to lay over for the night. In Virginia, I usually head for Floyd or Hillsville, or take one of the many cabins located near the Parkway. Be aware, if you do choose a cabin along the way, you’ll need to bring in your own food or eat before you get there. Chateau Morrisette has great food, and you can stuff a bottle in the bags to bring to the cabin.

photo - grandfather mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Grandfather Mountain south of Boone starts the climb into the high mountains of North Carolina

Photo - View of the grounds at the Switzerland Inn

The Switzerland Inn – A beautiful Resort on the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of my favorite stops

On the North Carolina side of the border, most choose to stay in or around Boone. You’ll find lots of lodging options here, and plenty of good places to eat in town, though you will have to deal with the traffic. If you are making really good time, the last place I’d suggest is the Spruce Pine / Little Switzerland area, the Switzerland Inn is a fabulous stop right on the parkway with nice rooms and great food as is the Skyline Inn nearby. Once south of here, there is a long stretch of empty road before you come into the city of Asheville.

Savor your second day. Once you get south of Boone, you start to climb into the high mountains. This is the time to slow down, take advantage of the numerous overlooks, and get those photos. You’ll also hit some of the trickiest turns and curves. Take your time, relax, and enjoy.

Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks - highest point

Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks – highest point. The long sweeping overlook compliments the great sweeping views

Strategic planning is critical on the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. You’ll be riding through long remote sections of road with few facilities nearby. I suggest fueling up in Asheville. You’ll find gas stations closest to the parkway here. It’s also a good place to stop for food, it’s hard to find a bad meal in Asheville. While it’s the second largest city on the Blue Ridge Parkway (after Roanoke, VA), it’s easy to navigate and a fun place to spend a little time. While the only remaining Park Service Lodge, the Pisgah Inn,  is just south of Asheville, and has great food and views, expect a wait to get served.

Blue Ridge Parkway-motorcycle-view

The southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway is worth the wait. Take your time and enjoy!

blue-ridge-parkway-devils-courthouse

Blue Ridge Parkway – Devils Courthouse, one of many spectacular sights on the ride.

If you find yourself running short on gas towards the end of the ride, the next best option for fuel is Maggie Valley at US 19 / Soco Gap (MP 455.7). You also find food there, and the Wheels Through TIme Motorcycle Museum is worth the visit. Maggie Valley is the place I most recommend for staying near the end of the parkway as it is so well located for the wealth of great motorcycle rides in the surroundings, and there are lots of rooms available at good prices.

Arriving at the south end of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Cherokee, NC, you are at the southern entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cherokee has a good number of rooms, but it’s also quite “touristy” so you’ll have some traffic to deal with. No alcohol on the reservation, and the best food is probably at Harrah’s Casino. While I’ve stayed there in the past, I suggest looking at all your options depending on which way your travels take you next.

Enjoy a Blue Ridge Parkway view on a motorcycle trip

Blue Ridge Parkway view – While 2 days will get you there, if you have more time you’ll find plenty to enjoy on a more relaxed motorcycle tour of one of the top 10 rides in the country.

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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

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Learn Total Control

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Classic Motorcycle Roads Closed – a blessing?

Classic Motorcycle Roads Closed – a blessing?

Extreme rain causes flooding and washes out many favorite motorcycle rides – here’s an update and what it means for your motorcycle tour plans;

Note: we are hardly out of the woods – all this moisture in the soil could lead to more slides over time, and now with some hard freezes coming in, the freeze/thaw cycles could contribute to more problems as more rock is cracked, split, and loosened.

US 441 – Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Seems this road is always under construction, over the past year or two, to repair a slide near the top on the Tennessee side of the border. As the only road which crosses the park, right through the heart of it, it carries heavy traffic loads. Now, a large section has washed out about 9 miles north of Cherokee, and it will require a substantial and costly repair.

photo - slide closes park

photo source: Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Newfound Road US 441 hit by slide, park closes

Of all the damage from the recent weather, this is the most significant. While I do show this as a great motorcycle ride on my America Rides motorcycle pocket maps, it’s one of those “if you haven’t done it, you should ride it”, but it’s not one of my favorites due to the traffic, and I typically avoid it.

If you are planning to base a motorcycle vacation out of Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge, you will now be forced to ride completely around the park to reach many of the best motorcycle rides. While there are some great motorcycle rides on the north side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you will also be dealing the the tourist traffic that  floods into this area. I suggest you look at options on the south side of the park instead. Map #8 details the best motorcycle rides free of traffic on the north side of GSMNP, but there are so many more on the south side you will get in more riding by basing your motorcycle trip on the quiet side of the park.

The Cherohala Skyway – NC 143/ TN 165

A significant slide on the North Carolina side of the border, about 1 mile from the state line has taken out one lane of the road and it has been closed. This is one of the nicest rides in the area, and the only road that crosses through this remote area of high mountains, a favorite scenic motorcycle ride often done as a loop ride with the infamous Dragon at Deals Gap.

Photo Source - Graham Star - Slide on Cherohala Skyway takes out 1 lane

Photo Source – Graham Star – Slide on Cherohala Skyway takes out 1 lane

This is a “wait and watch” situation right now to determine how stable the slope is over time. The good news is there is likely enough room for a temporary detour, though the work required to fix the problem will be extensive. I am hopeful, it will reopen before the riding season cranks up.

This road is featured on Map #7,  Map #8, and 12 Classic Deals Gap motorcycle rides.

US 19 – Near Burnsville

This is not a large slide in scope, but the issue is a “house sized boulder” which now sits blocking the road. Complicating the cleanup is a nearby house which is too close to permit blasting of the rock. Plan is to drill in to it and use expanding materials to break it up. I expect this problem will be cleared up relatively quickly.

yancey county slide

Photo source – Yancey County News – Large boulder blocking road

Detours use Jack’s Creek Road and Coxes Creek roads, this area is detailed on Map #5

Blue Ridge Parkway (near MP 455) Soco Gap area, near Maggie Valley

Reports of a small slide in this area seem to be over-hyped. I have hiked to it for inspection, and found a few rocks in the road which I could have cleared with one hand. No worries here.

photo - small slide on Blue Ridge PArkway

The rock slide reported near MP 455 is nothing to worry about. I could have taken care of it myself.

The most significant Blue Ridge Parkway closure in North Carolina is for slope stabilization near Mt. Mitchell. The road is closed here at least through April. You can download a free printable map of my suggested detours for motorcycles that give you other options here – http://smokymountainrider.com/Downloads/parkway-closure-2013.pdf

NC 63 – Leicester Road

I have not had personally investigated this slide, it is reported one lane has been affected. This is a popular motorcycle ride connecting to NC 209 (The Rattler), often used to make loop rides or access Asheville. The slide occurred in the best section of the road, the steep switchbacks that climb over the mountain. No further info on this one right now.

Great Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina - NC 209, a.k.a. "The Rattler" This is some of the best motorcycle riding you'll find in the world. These riders are looping back to NC 209 on NC 63.This is some of the best motorcycle riding you'll find in the world. These riders are looping back to NC 209 on NC 63.

Great Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina – These riders are looping back to NC 209 on NC 63.

Fortunately, there are many other options to make loop rides through this area, you’ll find them them extensively detailed on Map #6

So where are the blessings in all this bad news?

Most of the mess will be tended to by the time the real motorcycle riding season gets going. While 5 important roads are closed, some of them consistently on the “top 10 motorcycle rides” lists, it is only 5. I show nearly 200 other great motorcycle rides in this area, the blessing is you now have the opportunity to get away from the tourist traffic that flocks to these biker roads and discover some of little know and best scenic motorcycle rides detailed on my maps.

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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

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Learn Total Control

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Blue Ridge Parkway Motorcycle – Fall Leaf Color

Blue Ridge Parkway Motorcycle – Fall Leaf Color, October 12, 2012
South section, Asheville to Cherokee

Blue Ridge Parkway Motorcycle - Fall leaf color

Blue Ridge Parkway Motorcycle – Fall leaf color; While the leaves have dropped some at the highest points, plenty remains just a little lower.

For bikers riding the Blue Ridge Parkway by motorcycle this year, it’s been another good fall showing of fall leaf color. The weather has been a bit “iffy” at times, but that’s not uncommon during this transitional period of the year.

Blue Ridge Parkway Motorcycle - Fall leaf color;

Blue Ridge Parkway Motorcycle – Fall leaf color; Even where some leaf loss has occurred, the views are still outstanding. Late in the day the golden sunlight really sets them off!

Friday, the colors were just getting near their peak at the highest elevations. A cold front over the weekend brought some wind and rain lingered into the week. Unfortunately the leaves were stripped in many exposed areas. Still, there is plenty remaining to make a motorcycle tour worth the time and effort.

Blue Ridge Parkway Motorcycle - Fall leaf color;

Blue Ridge Parkway Motorcycle – Fall leaf color; plenty of color yet to come at the lower elevations throughout the mountains. It usually lasts well into November.

Above 5000 ft. some color remains, but the real show now is a little further down. You’ll find excursions off the Blue Ridge Parkway onto the many great connecting motorcycle rides still yielding a spectacular view of natures glory.

Blue Ridge Parkway Motorcycle - Fall leaf color;

Blue Ridge Parkway Motorcycle – Fall leaf color; The lower elevations are just beginning to show the full spectrum of all the hues of the leafy rainbow.

Don’t miss opportunities to get off onto the back roads where there are some outstanding displays of not only great leaf color, but beautiful mountain scenes that reward the wanderer year-round.  AmericaRidesMaps.com will help you find them!

NC 215 fall leaf color - motorcycle rides nc

NC 215 fall leaf color – motorcycle rides nc – NC 215 has currently got some great shows of color as well as the scores of roads shown on America Rides Maps in the surrounding area. Be sure to check them out!

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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

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Learn Total Control

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Top 10 Motorcycle Rides – Pacific Coast Highway vs. Blue Ridge Parkway

We’ve all probably seen those lists of the top 10 motorcycle rides in the USA – typically a rehash of the same roads again and again. As the leading expert on motorcycle riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway I make an effort to get out and see those other top 10 motorcycle rides to see how they stack up to the one I consider best. I’ve just returned from riding the last good section of the Pacific Coast Highway in California and here’s my biased opinions of how they compare.

Top 10 Motorcycle Rides - Pacific Coast Highway vs. Blue Ridge Parkway

Top 10 Motorcycle Rides – Pacific Coast Highway vs. Blue Ridge Parkway – The stunning scenery is often enveloped in thick sea fog. Note the traffic mid-week mid-day. I’d imagine weekends are worse.

Over the years I’ve ridden all but one of the good sections of the Pacific Coast Highway. The fact that there are good and not-so-good sections on the long western ride is one major difference between the two roads – there are no “not-so-good” sections on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The scenery is stunning and beautiful as the coastal road traverses the high cliffs and rocky beaches along the western shore. The one remaining section I just finished riding is the Big Sur area in central California.

Top 10 Motorcycle Rides - Pacific Coast Highway vs. Blue Ridge Parkway

Top 10 Motorcycle Rides – Pacific Coast Highway vs. Blue Ridge Parkway – this trip I rented a 600cc entry-level sport bike in Los Angeles and headed north. For this ride, a performance bike is wasted, it’s much better suited to a big cruiser.

Located between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the Big Sur area is found just south of Carmel. Further south the seaside road is pretty built up with homes and businesses and sections of freeway and holds little appeal to me as a pleasant and scenic motorcycle ride. Same to the north as you get into the San Francisco area. While this area was nice, my top pick for the best section of the Pacific Coast Highway would be the section through Oregon, though this is a good one.

Top 10 Motorcycle Rides - Pacific Coast Highway vs. Blue Ridge Parkway -

Top 10 Motorcycle Rides – Pacific Coast Highway vs. Blue Ridge Parkway – The landscape is quite a contrast to the lush forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Where are the trees? Too dry and harsh.

Contrary to what you might expect, the Pacific Coast Highway is not entirely on the coast. It diverts inland in many places, away from the cold ocean waters into the rolling dry hills. To the north in Washington and Oregon, that sometimes takes you into the redwood forests, and a brief section did so near Big Sur. Mostly though, these inland diversions run you through the dry and rolling hills almost monotonous in appearance. You won’t find the lush green landscape of the eastern mountains covered with trees.

Top 10 Motorcycle Rides - Pacific Coast Highway vs. Blue Ridge Parkway -

Top 10 Motorcycle Rides – Pacific Coast Highway vs. Blue Ridge Parkway – There are plenty of places to stop alongside the road and savor the views. The sun poked through the clouds so rarely I never got a really clear photo.

While the terrain is almost desert dry, it’s more likely to be chilly than hot. The frigid waters of the Pacific cool the coastline even in the midst of July to where you’ll want some warm gear with you. The cold water also creates a thick sea fog which reaches far inland and usually doesn’t pull back to reveal the views until the afternoon. Riding early in the day is too often a disappointment when the thick fog hides the views you’ve come so far to see.

Top 10 Motorcycle Rides - Pacific Coast Highway vs. Blue Ridge Parkway

Top 10 Motorcycle Rides – Pacific Coast Highway vs. Blue Ridge Parkway – Of course, I poked my wheels down several of the few side roads that lead in from the coast – Carmel Valley Road was one of my favorites for challenging curves a good views.

The greatest contrast between the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Pacific Coast Highway is the amount of traffic. While there are curvy and engaging sections of the road, you’ll rarely be able to enjoy carving through them as there is almost always a car, RV, or commercial traffic to slow you down just when you want to crank it up. While there can be times of traffic on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the ride is constantly scenic, always 2 lane, and without interruption for it’s entire 469 mile length.

Top 10 Motorcycle Rides - Pacific Coast Highway vs. Blue Ridge Parkway

Top 10 Motorcycle Rides – Pacific Coast Highway vs. Blue Ridge Parkway – Once done with the coast, I went back to some of my favorite California riding, the mountains and twisty canyons that run through them. Much hotter in the interior.

The Pacific Coast Highway should be on your bucket list of places to visit on your motorcycle tours. It deserves to be on the top 10 best motorcycle rides lists, principally for the scenery, but not the riding experience. There’s just too much traffic and diversions onto highway and through towns and cities. Honestly, I find riding the canyons and mountain passes in California much better riding on a motorcycle if you more enjoy an engaging and challenging road with little traffic impair your ride.

Top 10 Motorcycle Rides - Pacific Coast Highway vs. Blue Ridge Parkway

Top 10 Motorcycle Rides – Pacific Coast Highway vs. Blue Ridge Parkway – Looking back towards Santa Barbara you can sometimes see the Channel Islands from one of my favorite rides CA33 – the Mariposa Highway. It’s a twisty climb from Ojai and a lot of fun on a motorcycle.

I had a good experience renting from Racy Rentals in Los Angeles – if you’d like to see about a rental bike go to http://www.racyrentals.com/

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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

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Learn Total Control

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks by Motorcycle

Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks by Motorcycle – Highest Point

Richland Balsam Overlook
Elevation – 6053 feet
Milepost – 431.4 

Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks - highest point

Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks – highest point. The long sweeping overlook  provides expansive views of the mountains which comprise ‘The Land of the Waterfalls”

The highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway is in North Carolina at milepost 431.4. Here, the nations top motorcycle ride reaches an elevation of 6053 feet as it carves it’s way along  the southern exposure of the Balsam mountain range.

Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks by Motorcycle - highest point

Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks by Motorcycle – Getting your picture with the sign at the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of those “must have” photos from your trip to reach the long paved overlook which spans the radius of the curve around the mountain.

There is no dramatic climb to reach the long paved overlook which spans the radius of the broad curve around the mountain. The Blue Ridge Parkway maintains a steady altitude through this long remote and isolated section of the national park rarely dipping below 5000 feet. While the grades are gentle, the curves are full of surprises and the drop-offs along the roadside inspire a real respect for the altitude on this best motorcycle ride in the USA.

Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks by Motorcycle - high point

Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks by Motorcycle – peer into several states from the highest point on clear days, but it not place to be in bad weather

Only 37.7 miles from the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway at Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, NC, a ride to the high point is an easy one to squeeze in even if you’re not on an end-to-end parkway ride on your motorcycle. From Asheville, Waynesville and Maggie Valley, it’s a wonderful way to spend a few hours riding a motorcycle on one of the the best scenic motorcycle rides you’ll find anywhere.

Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks by Motorcycle - high point

Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks by Motorcycle – Few can resist a stop at the high point. The large parking area is able to handle the crowds, and it’s a great lace to get shots of large groups of riders.

As you might suspect, this spot is one of the most remote and isolated on your Blue Ridge Parkway motorcycle ride. It’s a long ride for gas, tank up before you go. The high parts get the wet weather first – if it looks cloudy from the valley, you may not see much when you get up high. It will be a lot cooler than down in the valley and more windy, be prepared.

Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks by Motorcycle - high point

Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks by Motorcycle – A fall view from the high point overlook. Clear days are just spectacular!

Map of the best section of the Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway Map best

Map of the best 50 mile section of the Blue Ridge Parkway shows the location of the high point and the ways to reach it from nearby towns. Click for larger image –

See a 360 degree panoramic view at Virtual Blue Ridge – http://www.virtualblueridge.com/parkway_tour/overlooks/00431b.asp

image-motorcycle-ride-map-cover

You’ll find the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway on America Rides Maps motorcycle pocket map

#6 The Best Motorcycle Rides Near Smoky Mountains National Park – EAST http://shop.americaridesmaps.com/6-The-Best-Motorcycle-Rides-Near-Smoky-Mountains-Park-EAST-NC017.htm

____________________________________________________________________

wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

Total Rider Tech Logo

Learn Total Control

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Motorcycle Rides In Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area

Let’s get the obvious out of the way right now so we can enjoy the rest of the story, “There are more great Motorcycle Rides in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains than anywhere else”. You knew it was coming, and now being said, we can move on.

photo-view-from-room

We had a nice view from our room at the posh 4 Seasons Resort in Scottsdale, AZ.

We flew into Phoenix, stayed in Scottsdale. 

While many riders fantasize about riding cross-country to reach those far-off destinations, I’m so over that. Droning along on the interstates through days of monotonous and uninteresting landscape is a waste of time and tires to me. With just 6 days of travel on my calendar, it would have taken 8 just getting there and back on the bikes. Once again, we flew in and rented a motorcycle to maximize our quality riding time.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - A balloon ride

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - A balloon ride really helps you appreciate the harshness of the desert and the general landscape.

Phoenix is a city of 1.5 million people who choose to live in a scalding moonscape unfit for sensible human habitation. Endless months of triple-digit temperatures preserve the volcanic origins of the region as if it was a recent event in geologic time. The rocky remnants of those ash-spewing calderas rise on the horizons like mountainous islands peeking above a deep, deep, rolling sea of gray-brown boulders, rocks, and dust. The entire region is one big blast and fallout zone.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Spines, thorns, prickles, barbs

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Spines, thorns, prickles, barbs, horns, needles, spikes, everything wants to hurt you!

5% humidity deprives most living things any chance of thriving.  Oxymoronic “river” signs mark parched sandy gulches where runoff collects for a few short minutes before re-vaporizing for the next few weeks – or months. Most every living thing is so bent on survival it threatens all others with spines and needles, fangs and venom to keep them at a distance. Nature has obviously posted the “Do Not Enter” sign.

A long motorcycle ride looping north from Scottsdale

We stuck to local sights the first day, visiting Cave Creek for lunch, and Natural Bridge to the north. The next day, we followed 74 northwest to US 60, then veered north on 89 near Wikenburg. The ride to Wikenburg was pretty miserable, just dry empty desert, highway traffic, vast open spaces.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale - Natural Bridge, AZ

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale - Natural Bridge, AZ, one of the side trips worth taking.

Route 89 soon climbs through a nice section of switchbacks to gain some elevation. The terrain gets a little more green and hospitable and the riding improves as the road seeks the better passage between the rolling hills. Riding along you are taunted by the “No trucks over 50 ft length X miles ahead on 89”, and when you finally pass through Wilhoit the ride gets nice and curvy and fun.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - A break near Prescott.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - A break near Prescott. Returning the phone calls that come in while I'm riding.

89 then passes through the town of Prescott which so interested us, we discussed the potential for basing there for a future trip. It seems to have a lot to offer. North of Prescott, we veered east on 89A for the best section of road I found this trip – the mountainous portion known as the Mingus Highway.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Jackie gets ready to descend from the Mingus Highway

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Jackie gets ready to descend from the Mingus Highway through Jerome, the best section of road this trip. Really put the softail through it's paces here!

The Mingus Highway twists and carves through the elevations much like the roads I so enjoy at home in the Smoky Mountains, though the arid scenery could easily convince you it’s a canyon ride in California. Exiting north, the roads plunges down from 6000 foot heights passing through the tiny hamlet of Jerome, clinging to the edge of the slopes nearly a mile above the valley below. A popular stop, we could not afford the delay, though next time it’s worth exploring.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - How pretty is Sedona?

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - How pretty is Sedona? Approaching from the west, this is the least scenic of the 3 routes into town.

We passed through Clarkesdale and Cottonwood, to reach the apex of our days ride – Sedona. As beautiful as it was, Sedona was just our lunch stop today, a first visit for me. Surrounded by the red rock monuments, the destination town is a vortex for tourists and caters to the crowds who flock there.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Cruising through Sedona

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Cruising through Sedona, the town is surrounded by the red rock formations on every horizon.

The ride turned south out of Sedona onto one of the most scenic rides you’ll find as Route 179 winds between the colorful rock formations to Oak Creek. Once you pass the casino at the edge of town, the road runs through unremarkable desert to intersect Interstate 17 and we continued south on the highway for a distance.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Some of the best and easiest views are right along Route 197 south of Sedona.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Some of the best and easiest views are right along Route 197 south of Sedona.

We turned east when we reached Route 260 and started climbing into the higher elevations and more interesting and scenic riding. Temperatures dropped as we climbed to 7000 feet and entered the high pine forests. Route 260 became Route 87 as we continued south through the small towns of Strawberry and Pine, and the larger sprawling town of Payson.

Motorcycle rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Sedona is a popular destination for motorcycle riders for obvious reasons.

Motorcycle rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Sedona is a popular destination for motorcycle riders for obvious reasons.

Progressing south from Payson on Route 87 the road gains another lane then gradually leads you down from the heights and back out into the Sonoran Desert returning to the city. We covered a little more than 400 miles on this loop ride, the longest of the trip.

 A nice loop ride east of Phoenix / Scottsdale

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale - Riding 188 south is a nice cruiser

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale - Riding 188 south is a nice cruiser ride that includes sections along Theodore Roosevelt Lake

I saw this ride described as a great “cruiser” road and I’ll concur with the assessment. It’s easy riding with nice scenery and relatively little traffic. Route 87 north led us through the gentle sweeping curves that climb to the high desert. We made up names like “boulder city” and “the cactus jungle” to describe distinct areas along the route, and rolled through the essentially treeless national forest to reach Route 188 and turn southeast.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Turning on to Route 188

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Turning on to Route 188. When you're from the Smoky Mountains, a straight road is a rare sight deserving of a photo!

Route 188 formed the long side of the triangle we rode on this loop. More gentle flowing two lane curves through the dry hills lead to a long ride aside cobalt blue Theodore Roosevelt Lake. It’s pleasant and relaxing riding with the nice contrast of scenery and color.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Very pleasant ride along Theodore Roosevelt Lake.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Very pleasant ride along Theodore Roosevelt Lake. Jackie and I pause for a cool drink and to admire the bridge.

Along the way, we stopped at Tonto National Monument to see the historic cliff dwellings. It’s a steep walk up the trail and I wouldn’t wan’t to do it on a hot day, but we enjoyed our visit and the sights.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Tonto National Monument has historic cliff dwellings

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Tonto National Monument has historic cliff dwellings with a steep hike, but it's a great stop along Roosevelt Lake.

We turned onto the third leg of the triangle, Route 60 in Claypool, and started west toward Phoenix. We passed through miles and miles of massive mining operations and the mountains of tailings, then entered a wonderfully scenic canyon near Top-of-the-world. The steep drop through the spectacular rocky cliffs dumped us at the edge of a vast flat desert basin and a long arrow-straight drone back to the city. We covered about 250 miles on this day.

Sedona Highlights – what to see on a short visit

Sedona is one of the most scenic towns you’ll visit in the southwest, surrounded by towering red rock monuments on every horizon. We spent a day exploring the area and here are my suggestions on how to get the most out of a short visit.

Route 89A approaches town from the west, then exits north. Route 179 junctions with Route 89 in the heart of town leading south.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Looking west on Route 89A from Sedona

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Looking west on Route 89A from Sedona

Approaching town from the west on 89A, to get one of the best views ride to the top of Airport Road. The view from atop the mesa overlooks the entire town and panorama of breathtaking geography.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - one of the best overlooks of Sedona

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - For one of the best overlooks of Sedona, ride up to the top of the mesa on Airport Road. Wow!

North of town, 89A follows Oak Creek Canyon along the river. The deep canyon is forested with tall pine trees that partially obscure the views of the towering cliff walls and you wind you way north. The road gets tighter and tighter than makes a dramatically step climb through a series of switchbacks to top the rim at over 6000 feet. it’s worth the ride to see and experience. Once atop the canyon, 89A continues to Flagstaff and connects to Route 66.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - View from the rim of Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - View from the rim of Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona. Follow it into Flagstaff and connect to Route 66.

The easiest way to see the red rocks in all their splendor is to ride down Route 179 south from Sedona. I wouldn’t bother with the Red Rock Loop Road, it’s not as scenic as touted and there is an unpaved section near the middle – more effort than reward. Use the pullouts at the monuments for the nice views and don’t miss a ride up to the Chapel of the Holy Cross for some great views and photos.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - View from the Chapel of the Holy Cross

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - View from the Chapel of the Holy Cross just outside Sedona. A short drive with a nice view.

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

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– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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A Fun Motorcycle Ride out of Maggie Valley, NC

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A Holiday Motel in Maggie Valley hosted the ride and fed us well!

13 bikes left with me, 2 returned. Here’s what happened on our motorcycle “fun ride” –

I came in Friday night to share my Secret Roads with the riders in Maggie Valley. With 200 great motorcycle rides on my map of the Great Motorcycle Rides of the Smoky Mountains, I helped them plan their rides for Saturday.

I then invited them to come on a “Fun Ride” in the morning.

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The riders from the A Holiday Motel stop for a group shot on The Rattler Motorcycle route.

So what’s a “Fun Ride”? Quite simply, I’m going out for a ride. You are welcome to tag along. No strings, no hassles, no fees, no one is responsible for you. It’s an opportunity to hook up with a “local” who knows the roads and will likely take you places you’d otherwise never see.

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Some of the group on NC 209 a.k.a. The Rattler.

A “Fun Ride” invites adventure. The route is decided on the fly. Nothing’s been scouted, no arrangements for meals, stops, etc. The group of riders I met at the A Holiday Motel in Maggie Valley this weekend wanted to ride to Hot Springs, NC and experience parts of “The Rattler” motorcycle ride. I got them on the best sections, and a whole lot more.

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Such a great day to be out riding. Follow the leader!

Adventure? Yesterday I chose one photo stop in a “parking lot” that was more like a minefield, but everyone survived without dropping their bikes. We stopped for lunch at a place I’d never been when we were hungry and it was pretty darned good.  Some got chased by a dog. Each break spot serendipitously had something memorable about it (a parrot riding a motorcycle?). The weather was sweet, the roads clean, and I know there are other stories to be told.

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Polly wants a diaper? Poor mans bike alarm? Touch my bike and you'll lose a finger! I wonder what this riders leathers look like! Seen at a stop on our ride through Hot Springs, NC.

The group paired down as the day wore on.  Some needed to be back earlier and followed the quick route home. No big deal, nobody is counting heads at the rest stops or will come back looking for you at the end of the day. We lost one rider when he wore out a tire, and another tagged along with him to insure he made it for repairs. Some followed along only as part of another ride they’d planned for the day. No rules, no hassles, ride your own ride.

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So how good were those roads? This tire tells the tale! Our only mechanical issue of the day and I knew where to get it fixed. Thanks to MR Motorcycle in Asheville for getting him back on the road.

I returned to the A Holiday Motel with two bikes at the end of the day. Others had peeled off at the Leather Shack, the gas stations, or went up for a quick ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway as we came into town. Those two, both women on their own bikes, had really enjoyed the day and had fun. I know I did. At the superb BBQ dinner provided by the A Holiday Motel that night, everyone was very happy after a nice day riding motorcycles through the Smoky Mountains.

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Making our way back on the best section of NC 63. It was a great day of riding. This road was tame after what we'd been through earlier.

The next “Fun Ride” will be based out of The Lodge at Copperhead in Blairsville, Ga. on Saturday, May 19. On Friday evening, I’ll do a short “Secret Roads” presentation and share what I know in hopes you’ll find some great new rides to add to your collection. Afterwards, I’ll be out on the porch, most likely in the vicinity of the very nice bar at the Lodge. Come see me if you’re interested. Kickstands up at 09:30 on Saturday.

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The Lodge at Copperhead near Blairsville, GA sits on the Gauntlet Motorcycle Ride

I’m going out for a ride on Saturday, May 19. Maybe, you’d like to tag along. Bring a full tank and an empty bladder.

A Holiday Motel in Maggie Valley

The Rattler” motorcycle ride

Map – Great Motorcycle Rides of the Smoky Mountains

The Lodge at Copperhead in Blairsville, Ga

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Photo-Wayne Busch

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

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Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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The Blue Ridge Parkway’s Best Kept Secret Waterfall

The Mount Lyn Lowry overlook is  a large and welcoming pull-off on the Blue Ridge Parkway that holds more than appears on a drive-by.

Motorcycle the Blue Ridge Parkway in the early spring and you’ll be rewarded with sights unseen by those who visit later in the year. One of them is Woodfin Cascades at the Mt Lyn Lowry overlook (MP 446.7). Once leaves cover the trees when summer arrives, most of this waterfall disappears from view.

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Woodfin Cascades are viewed from the Mt. Lyn Lowry overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Another secret revealed to those who spend a little time observing at this Blue Ridge Parkway overlook is the 60 foot high illuminated cross atop Mt. Lyn Lowry. You can use the cross as a reference to fid the falls, they are located beneath it on the mountainside.

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The cross is located atop the mountain. Even though it's 60 ft tall, on a 6240 mountain it's just a speck! The falls are hiding behind the leaves.

Mt Lyn Lowry overlook is located on the section of the Blue Ridge Parkway between Waynesville at US 74 and Maggie Valley at US 19. This is one of the most scenic stretches of the national park as it climbs to the heights of Waterrock Knob, then descends to Soco Gap and Maggie Valley. There are numerous long range overlooks.  Be sure to bring your camera for some of the best views you’ll find.

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In spring, the entire 235 foot run of Woodfin Cascades can be admired. It dissapears when things green up.

Here’s a 2 min video closeup of Woodfin Cascades –

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

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– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Motorcycle Detour for I-75 Slide near Jellico, TN

If you’re headed south to Daytona from the midwest, here’s a alternate route for motorcycles that will help you avoid the traffic – 

Coming home from a Total Rider Tech instructor training in Chicago yesterday, I ran into the roadblock on I-75 near the Tennessee / Kentucky state line. On the ride up I noted the rushing streams and rivers from recent storms and apparently Sinking Creek washed out and undermined a section of I-75 causing the southbound lane to subside and be closed at exit 160.

Even at 4 AM my cartographers instincts compelled me to look for an alternate route for my 2 wheeled friends that would get them away from the traffic that would now choke the “official” detour route which leads you down US 25W through La Follette.

Screenshot of Google Map

The "official" detour routs you east through La Follette. I've identified another way to the west that you should enjoy more.

Link to Google Map Route – http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=211107090297552226361.0004bb0ddf208a14a207c&msa=0&ll=36.408573,-83.946533&spn=0.584666,1.489334

Pass through Jellico, keeping left at the intersection in town with US 25W. Follow TN 297 south as it twists and winds through Newcomb and Elk Valley. Turn left onto TN 63 (Howard Baker HWY) to reconnect to the interstate just below the slide area at exit 141. There are a couple gas stations at this exit. It’s actually a pretty engaging ride for the motorcycle rider that you can enjoy, plan on 30 minutes or so without other traffic.

I did not scout the “official” route, though it looks like it too has some tight and twisty bits at the north end. Get a few big semi’s on this road and traffic is bound to slow to a crawl.

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

Total Rider Tech Logo

Learn Total Control

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Good Motorcycle Rides near Waynesville and Maggie Valley, NC

The last place I want to be riding a motorcycle is the 4-lane highway when there are so many good 2 lane back roads in North Carolina.

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Turn off the highway onto Candlestick Lane

For most motorcycle riders, covering the distance between Waynesville and Sylva means a relatively pleasant ride on four lane divided NC Highway 74 (The Great Smoky Mountains Expressway). As far as highways go, it is a nice ride winding down from Balsam Mountain and it rarely gets enough traffic to be annoying.

Lately though, I’ve been covering the relatively short distance on a few nice little back roads which I’ve grown very fond of. Since so many motorcycle touring riders pass through and stay in this area, I think they should know about them. If you’re riding near Cherokee, Maggie Valley, Waynesville, or Sylva, these roads may come in handy.

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Next turn onto Cabin Flats Road.

Both ends meet the Highway (US 74). The Waynesville end starts near the Blue Ridge Parkway Exit for Waynesville (MP 443.1) where it intersects US 74. Pass under the parkway then exit left onto Candlestick Lane. It’s an obvious intersection, well marked, look for the signs to Balsam, Balsam Mountain Inn, Moonshine Creek Campground.

Candlestick Circle is just a short loop off the highway, turn right onto Cabin Flats Rd. Cabin Flats Road winds along the railroad tracks a short distance, then makes a hairpin turn across them.  Balsam Mountain Inn sits on the hill above.

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The Balsam Mountain Inn – historic, good food

It’s been a long while side I last visited, but the historic inn (1905) is both scenic and the food used to be very, very, good. You can imagine it’s heyday when it was a stop on the tracks in the middle of nowhere.

Cabin Flats Road will morph into Dark Ridge Road and start a twisting course alongside a stream through the mountain passes. The railroad also follows this narrow valley and you’ll often see it off in the woods crossing the stream on bridges and trestles.

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Dark Ridge Road – more fun than the 4 lane

Dark Ridge Road, the railroad, the highway, and the stream cross each other several times on the way to Sylva in a twisted mountain mess. You go under the highway, under the railroad, over the stream several times on the ride.

Dark Ridge Road meets Skyland Road at a stop sign just after you cross the railroad tracks. Turn left (the road quickly peters out if you go right).

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Under the tracks on Skyland Rd

The first part of Skyland Road is nice and there are several good spots to stop and get a look at the now rushing whitewater stream.

The second half looses it’s appeal as it draws near Sylva and the suburbs of the town. You can follow the road all the way into Sylva. You may note the prominent fork right onto Chipper Curve Rd – it will bring you closer to downtown.

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Whitewater Creek along Skyland Rd

You can hop on-off this ride at 2 points and get back on the highway. One of them is obvious, a mile or so after you get on Skyland Rd. The other, Steeple Road, is closer to Sylva and is the best way to get back on the highway without going into town. Precision Cycles and a BP station mark it at the highway.

map

Click on photos and map for larger views

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch – Cartographer

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Learn Total Control

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

____________________________________________________________________

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